He thought he had the perfect gig. The pinnacle in a long line of ill gotten undeserved government appointments. Oh, he heard what they always said about him. The Symbol of Everything Wrong in American government, a corpulent corrupt spoilsman with no business getting anywhere near the White House. And Chester Arthur could not agree more. Good thing, then, he was Vice President. And not getting anywhere near the White House.
But now the Ground was shaking under him. And Chester Arthur knew what they were saying now. “Whatever our politics, we can only pray for President Garfield’s speedy recovery, because good god almighty, President Arthur?” And all Chester Arthur could say in response was “Good God Almighty indeed.” And then there were those hushed whispers. The Darkest of conspiratorial insinuations. “Look who has the most to gain.” Good god, you kidding me? If Chester Arthur could prove those birthers right — that he was actually born in Canada — he would do so right now! The only person in this country not actively dreading the prospect of a President Chester Arthur is that nutcase who shot James Garfield. And he’s about to get off on that novel new “Insanity Defense”. Because all he’s having to do to prove that is rattle on about how he can’t wait to see Chester Arthur as President!
And now, with Chester Arthur wallowing ever deeper into this well of self pity, the loudest nay sayer in a nation of naysayers, there came before him… one letter. The one letter that wasn’t just a long series of expletives directed at him — for Chester Arthur had this way of exposing the lie to the thin line of genteelity in Victorian America.
Dear Chester Arthur. Whether you like it or not, you are soon going to be President. And yes, you probably should have thought of this when you accepted your current post, instead of assuming you’d get away with gorging yourself on a fat salary for four years feeding your insatiable appetite for fine cheeses. But what’s done is done. You can’t rewrite history. So now for your sake. For the sake of the nation. You need to pull yourself together. Look at yourself in the mirror. And say the following. Over and over. Until you believe it. Until it lodges deep into your soul and becomes a part of you. “I’m President Chester Arthur, and you’re not going to mess with President Chester Arthur.” Do this, because if you fail to get this right, I honestly believe we can stick a fork in the Grand Experiment known as American Democracy. Yours Truly, Julia Sands.
And when that day came, when James Garfield inevitably passed on, less the victim of one crazy man’s bullet than of four months’ worth of hilarious medical malpractice, Chester Arthur could not help but read the subtext in all of Garfield’s eulogies. “So passes the greatest, smartest, bestest man America has ever had the fortune to see grace the White House. We can only hope this buffoonish clown replacing him doesn’t screw things up too badly. But we know he will.” And only a few weeks’ ago, Chester Arthur would’ve been the the first to agree. But that Chester Arthur was no more!
And it was when Roscoe Conkling, the man who made Chester Arthur, who slid him to one ill gotten cushy government appointment after another, strolled into the White House, and said “Hey Old Buddy! You gonna use your new influences to stop these Congressional Investigations on me?”, Chester Arthur broke out laughing. And when Roscoe Conkling nervously asked, “Why you laughing?”, Chester Arthur responded “Because I’m President Chester Arthur. And you’re not going to laugh at President Chester Arthur.” And then squealed in delight three months later when his one time benefactor, boss, friend was tossed into the slammer.
And it was staring down at this one bill — that had embroiled Congress for so long — The Ergonomic Reform Act of 1882 — some people said it went too far, other people said it didn’t go far enough — and Chester Arthur spoke for the rest of us when he said, “I don’t know what this bill does and I don’t care, but Fuck those Clowns in Congress!” And then he whipped out his veto pen, and said, “And here’s my message to you clowns in Congress. I’m President Chester Arthur. And you’re not going to mess with President Chester Arthur.”
And it was overflowing in schadenfreude, after his Republican Party skipped right over him, then went down to inglorious defeat with the One Man President Arthur deemed more ridiculous than he once thought himself, that Chester Arthur said to anyone who would listen, and anyone who wouldn’t. “Shoulda stuck with me, bitches. But now you see what happens when you mess with President Chester Arthur.”
And as the years have rolled on, the Reputation, Legend even, of Chester Arthur has grown ever larger, so today you will rarely hear a negative word spoken of President Chester Arthur. And that day will come soon enough, when the public will demand, and the public’s demand heeded, for the dismantling of Mount Rushmore, to be replaced by one giant bust of Chester Arthur, and that mantra of lore will be affixed as patriotic affirmation, superseding the equally fictitious pile of bullshit about George Washington and the cherry tree — a new American Mythology for new American circumstances.
“I’m President Chester Arthur. And you’re not going to mess with President Chester Arthur.”